Star Wars: Kenobi

Star Wars: Kenobi

‘STAR WARS: KENOBI’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

Who knew that the Old West extended into a galaxy far far away?


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

The Republic has fallen. Sith Lords rule the galaxy. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has lost everything….Everything but hope.
Tatooine – a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.
Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.
Ben – Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope – can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi – and the formidable power of the Force – in his never-ending fight for justice.
©2013 John Jackson Miller (P)2013 Random House Audio


THE PLOT:

‘Kenobi’ tells the story of Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi’s first few weeks on the desert planet Tattooine after delivering Luke Skywalker to the Lars homestead. Set shortly after the events of ‘Revenge of the Sith’, the novel depicts Kenobi’s transition from Jedi master defending the galaxy to fugitive from the Empire in hiding.
Tattooine serves as the perfect place to do a story that feels like a novel about the Old West. It is a desert planet where settlers are in constant battle with natives (the Tusken Raiders), dangerous animal life, and harsh conditions.
The bulk of the story takes place at the Pika Oasis and involves the family of its owner Annileen Calwell, local farmer Orrin Gault, and their respective families. It is really more a story of their goings on and Obi-wan Kenobi’s struggle to avoid drawing attention to himself and getting involved in their affairs. As things unfold and deceptions become apparent, Ben is drawn into the conflict anyway, even at the risk of being discovered as a Jedi.
I don’t want to speak too much about specific plot details because I think the reader should discover them for himself. It is different from most Star Wars novels however, in that the basic story is about people just trying to live their lives as best they can under tough conditions. The settlers are in constant clashes with the native Tuskens but face more relateable struggles, such as a potentially bad harvest. It is the difficult choices that they make and what can happen when the wrong choices are made that is truly at the heart of the plot of ‘Kenobi’.
John Jackson Miller proves in ‘Kenobi’ that you don’t need light saber duels and giant space battles to make an epic Star Wars novel. Instead, he uses a small setting, some well defined characters, (the Tusken leader A’Yark comes immediately to mind), a story filled with intrigue, and even a bit of humor to turn out an epic tale. Even things as simple as the name Annileen are played for great effect.
Probably the strongest part of the novel for the character of Ben Kenobi is his meditations. These are sort of his reports to Qui-Gon Jinn, his former master. They give great insight to his struggles, his fears, and his general thoughts about the things that seem to happen whenever he shows up at the Pika Oasis.
But the thing I am happiest about is that ‘Kenobi’ holds up very well. There are a lot of things that are nice surprises when you read the book for the first time, but knowing that they were coming didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the story one bit. That tends to happen when you put compelling characters in a well constructed plot.


THE AUTHOR:

This is the second of John Jackson Miller’s novel that I have reviewed. ‘A New Dawn’ was one of the earliest reviews I have written for the site.
The thing that impresses me about Miller’s work within the Star Wars universe is his development of characters. So many Star Wars novels fall victim to what I call the Storm Trooper Effect, in which characters seem to only exist for the express purpose of being killed. Miller creates well formed characters with distinct personalities that are memorable for reasons other than their fate.
Miller also deserves credit for blending a science fiction universe with the Old West genre of storytelling. Miller drew inspiration for ‘Kenobi’ from ‘Shane’, and that is not only apparent but quite welcome.


THE NARRATION:

When it comes to Star Wars audiobooks, fans are lucky that the franchise has been blessed with so many good narrators. More than that though is that they always seem to match just the right narrator with a particular book. Jonathan Davis was the best choice to give voice to ‘Kenobi’ specifically because of his ability to give a voice to Ben. It is not an impression of Ewan McGregor from the prequel trilogy exactly, but it is a more than passable interpretation.


THE PRODUCTION:

Star Wars fans are spoiled by tremendous narrators and high production values. ‘Kenobi’ is no different, containing a wealth of sound effects and some music cues. The sound effects in this case have a particular Western theme which enhances the atmosphere of the book. Otherwise, the audio track sounds great, and the chapter stops are in the right place. Typical excellence from Random House.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

‘Kenobi’ still stands as one of the great Star Wars novels. It is a shining example of how flexible the Star Wars universe really can be, and will probably be remembered as the last great novel of the old expanded universe. It’s a combination Star Wars novel and Wild West tale. It would be fun to see authors mix other types of genres into the Star Wars universe. A princess Leia political thriller would be pretty great, as would a Star Wars spy novel or Sherlock Holmes style mystery.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
Star Wars: Kenobi John Jackson Miller Marc Thompson Random House Audio Science Fiction 08/27/2013 13 hours, 36 minutes 9.75/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘STAR WARS: KENOBI’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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